Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse sues Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni over campaign ads about taxes _lowres

Advocate photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse

Jefferson Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse has dropped a lawsuit against his main rival in the Oct. 24 election for parish president, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni, after both candidates agreed to stop circulating ads accusing the other of having a penchant for tax hikes.

Lagasse’s suit against Yenni and his campaign staff was scheduled to go to trial in front of 24th Judicial District Court Judge June Darensburg on Wednesday morning, but the proceedings were called off after the agreement was reached.

In a suit filed Oct. 8, Lagasse objected to a Yenni campaign ad that said the councilman, as a former Jefferson Parish public schools superintendent and School Board member, proposed more than $20 million in tax increases and succeeded in rolling taxes forward without voter approval.

The ad said those claims were backed by the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office and a pair of Bureau of Governmental Research reports. But Lagasse said those sources did not substantiate the claims about him and that the ad broke a law prohibiting political candidates from making false or misleading statements about their opponents.

Yenni countered with copies of numerous newspaper stories dating back to 1994 that his lawyers said supported the ad’s claims.

The agreement on Wednesday also required Lagasse to withdraw a television ad and a mailer “that refer to Yenni as the ‘Tax Man’ or any other similar moniker” and that claim the Kenner mayor raised city sewer fees and tried to increase property taxes. Yenni’s camp has said its ad about Lagasse was in response to his commercial and mailer attacking Yenni.

Lagasse is not required to recall any of the previously delivered mailers, according to Wednesday’s agreement.

Yenni, 39, and Lagasse, 76, are considered the front-runners in the race to succeed Jefferson Parish President John Young, who is running for lieutenant governor. Also on the ballot are Robin Daldegan Christiana, Vincent De Salvo and Al Morella, none of whom has previously held a major political office.

A runoff, if necessary, will be Nov. 21.

Yenni and Lagasse are among several Jefferson Parish candidates this election season who have filed lawsuits claiming that allegations in campaign ads are outright lies rather than legitimate political comments.